For the past three years, I’ve coordinated the Choral Arts Finale, a premier high school choral festival co-sponsored by ACDA of Minnesota and Concordia University, St. Paul. Each year, choirs from around the state audition to be one of the 4-6 choirs chosen for a clinic with an internationally renowned conductor, and a performance at Orchestra Hall. They also receive a $500 award and all of their travel expenses, due to a generous grant from the Frauenshuh family. 80 choirs have auditioned over the past three years.
This year, one of the choirs selected was the Pelican Rapids A Cappella Choir, directed by Gladys Hovland. One week before our April 13, 2008 Festival, a bus carrying Pelican Rapids band students home from a tour overturned, with injuries and one fatality resulting. Several members of the 11 voice A Cappella Choir were among those on that bus. Throughout the next week, the students at Pelican Rapids faced two snow days as they prepared for the funeral. They were not sure if they would be able to participate in the festival. On the day before (April 12), they determined that they could come (in two shifts, as the funeral for the student was on Sunday afternoon, April 13.)
Throughout the day of the festival, the Pelican Rapids students were lifted up by their peers and the choral directors. They felt blessed by the choral community that was created at the festival. That night as they performed (including a piece called, “Sing me to Heaven”), the whole audience felt the power of how music in created in community—choral music—helped them live through this tragedy. That message of community and blessing was felt throughout the state, as three television stations picked up the story and broadcast the choir’s performance on their evening news. It was a powerful evening that will stay with everyone involved for the rest of their lives.
In 1953 I was a young man in Brainerd, MN and encountered Curt Hansen, the new choir director in Brainerd. His passion for choral music created a spark in me that continues to today.What a great inspiration he was for me!